Friday, June 29, 2007

Redemptorist Ukranian Martyrs - Blessed Bishop Nicholas Charnetsky and Companions

Brave and faithful men and women of the Ukranian Catholic Rite martyred during the Soviet regime.

To read their story go to the site of the Baltimore Province of the Redemptorist Congregation. Here's the link.

Still available at the site is an article about our long-standing connection to Our Mother of Perpetual Help.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Redemptoristine Contemplative Nuns Honor Mother Of Perpetual Help on Her Feast - June 27

Our chapel was filled to overflowing for Mass in Honor of Our Mother of Perpetual Help on her feast. Father Dennis Billy, CSsR once again began his homily with a personal note. This time he spoke of his young nephew Andrew. As typical a pre-schooler as any, Andrew is always active, always asking questions, always needing an adult eye lovingly monitoring his adventures. Father Dennis reported that his sister, Andrew's mom, tells him that mothering is the toughest job in the world.

Our Mother of Perpetual Help shows us the human face of Christ. The icon has been interpreted to be a depiction of the young Jesus fleeing from a nightmare of the Cross directly into the protection of his mother's arms. She comforts her son and comforts us too when we have nightmares of our own.

Father Dennis spoke of the Gospel, the vignette of Jesus entrusting his mother to John and John to his mother in his last agony. Then he says, "I thirst." Only to be followed by, "It is finished." Part of the work of redemption was Jesus gift of Mary to us in the words, "Here is your mother" and then "It is finished."

St. Alphonsus de Liguori wrote and published over one hundred theological and spiritual works. Perhaps his most famous book is The Glories of Mary. Alphonsus wrote about the desire of Mary to have us seek her and invoke her aid in order that she can be of help to us. And her love for us is so great that she does not wait for us but anticipates our prayers, always looking out for our welfare. We must bring her all our needs even though she already knows what they are. We must bring her our nightmares - the needs of our body, mind, spirit, family, community, country, society and world. And all of our prayers to Mary are uttered within the context of the Eucharist, the source and summit of our spiritual lives as followers of Christ. In that Eucharist we receive Jesus's gift of Himself, we receive the Son of Mary, who is our Redeemer, the One to whom Mary is our constant guide.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Contemplative Nuns Celebrate Patronal Feast

Vigil of the Feast of Our Mother of Perpetual Help

In the last few days Father Dennis Billy, CSsR, celebrant and homilist for our Masses of the Triduum of this great feast, had the rather shocking experience of going to the doctor for a regular check-up and ending up in the hospital. It was all about his heart. This is all the more shocking because Father Dennis is a young-looking fifty or so years, spare of frame and totally committed to his daily run up hill and dale here in Esopus or through the busy streets of Rome where he is a professor. As he began his homily last evening he listed the technology available to measure the function of the heart: EKG, blood pressure gauge, electrocardiogram, echo cardiogram, stress test, and angiogram. But he insisted there is another science of the heart, what St. Alphonsus called the 'silence of the saints'. It is the saints who teach us about the inner workings of the heart.

Mary is a master teacher. As we learned from the Gospel story of the Annunciation Mary listened. Her heart was open to the word of the angel and the Word of God who would come to rest beneath her heart. Mary teaches us in two very important ways. She reminds us of the human face of God we behold in Jesus. And she reveals our destiny, what we are called to become, a disciple of Jesus. Father asked us to ponder, as Mary would, a few questions in our heart. Can we see the human face of Go? Do we hope to be fully alive and redeemed? How does God speak to you? What is God saying right now?

This evening Father spoke again of his hospitalization for tests and of getting temporarily 'lost'. Callers and visitors could not find him because he was not in the ER nor was he in a room so the computer 'thought' he wasn't in the hospital at all. He felt as if he had become invisible and asked us if we'd ever felt like we had just fallen off everyone's radar screen. Finally his sister found him and when she pulled open the curtain surrounding him he experience much joy in the sight of a familiar face.

He had just read to us the Gospel story of Mary's visitation, her reaching out to her cousin in need. By virtue of the presence of the Incarnate Word in her womb she became a disciple of Jesus. In this act of generosity she demonstrates what discipleship means. She had great concerns about her welfare and the welfare of her child but she extended herself. So this story tells us what it means to be a disciple. We must allow the Word of God to take shape in our hearts where we ponder its mystery. We must be present to others with our eyes, ears and hands reaching out in service, friendship and kinship to fulfill the needs of others.

We may feel forgotten or lost but Our Mother of Perpetual Help reminds us that we will never be forgotten. She reminds us that God desires us and wants us to bear fruit and nurture the Word in our hearts.

Jesus comes to us every day in the Eucharist. Mary visits us too whenever Jesus comes into the world and into our hearts. In this 'visitation' she helps us to be faithful disciples.

We are grateful to Father Dennis Billy, CSsR
for sharing his story, these insights
and his love of Our Blessed Mother
with us during this Triduum.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Entering the Triduum of the Feast of Mother of Perpetual Help

Once again we have come to the 25th of the month, always special to us as we remember the Incarnation of Our Redeemer and renew our vows. Today, continuing our Novena, we begin the triduum of the Feast of Perpetual Help, patroness of our monastery. Father Dennis Billy, CSsR, will be the celebrant and homilist for the Triduum Masses. He has just returned to the U.S. from his teaching assignment at the Academy Alphonsianum in Rome.

The last line of our renewal of vows formula reads, "I trust in your mercy, Father and in the maternal help of Mary, Mother of Jesus and my mother, to remain faithful to my covenant." With these words in in so many of our prayers and rituals each day we entrust ourselves to the Mother who gives us perpetual help. If you have not already read the Novena Prayer you will scroll down to it and be drawn into our expression of gratitude and trust to the Mother of Jesus.

If possible, a hint of Father Billy's wisdom and inspiration will appear here. Do scroll down in the sidebar to the list of LINKS. There you will find a link to the site of the Baltimore Province of Redemptorists. An article about how our sisters relate to their patroness will appear there.

Mother of Perpetual Help, pray for us.
That we may become worthy of the promises of Christ.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Solemnity of St. John the Baptist - Sunday June 24

Feast Day of Sister Moira Quinn
of the Lamb of God

We rejoice with Sister Moira today and thank our loving God for her presence in our community. Junior in age but not experience, she is our immediate past prioress for six years and now serves as vicar or sub-prioress. She is an accomplished artist, liturgical dancer and party planner extraordinaire. She was a professional hairdresser and helps to keep us looking well-clipped and neatly coiffed by the generosity of her talent. And you may have noticed that she is a published author too. Her novel, Here I Am, displays her creative imagination, the depth of her faith and hints at aspects of her own contemplative journey. Moira is an inspiration in so many ways; as a cancer survivor, as a most willing and giving sister in community, as a Redemptoristine daughter of Maria Celeste Crostarosa faithfully pursuing the ideal of being a living memory of Jesus Christ.

Sister Moira is also a gift to her parents, a faithful support and willing ear to her three sisters and three brothers-in-law, and loving aunt to eight nieces and nephews.

While she serves as menu planner, food shopper and sometimes cook and helps to steer us along by membership on the Prioress's Council, she is also serving as Chairperson of the Metropolitan Association of Contemplative Communities. In this effort she is extending forty years of this organization's history of providing a vehicle for mutual support, continuing education and religious formation for contemplatives in NYC tri-state area. And did I say she can sing too?

Sister Moira, many blessings to you and yours today and prayers for all of the special intentions you hold close to your heart as you live each day in the heart of our Redeemer.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

An Informational Message

* Two fine new books have been added to the list of recommendations.

* Seems that many of those who come to this site are visiting a blog for the first time and are reluctant to post comments. Here's some tips by way of encouragement. Anyone can post. No registration is necessary. Just click on the word "Comments" below any of my posts. Don't hesitate to write a personal comment or message you friends of mine out there. I have arranged it so that your comments come directly to my e-mail message box. I then have the option of posting them to this BLOG or not. So if the comment would not be of interest to others I can choose not to post it. Hope that is a relief. By the way, it took me quite a while to figure out how to make that happen.

*While I am at it I will tell you that by clicking on the little envelope under any of my posts you can send it via e-mail to anyone you think might be interested. Just be sure that you have that person's e-mail address handy or ready to 'paste' in.

* I find that visual memories of the film "Into Great Silence" are clinging to me. How effective it was! The magazine America published a very insightful, well-written and positive review recently. Perhaps you can look it up.

* We continue our Novena to Mother of Perpetual Help for these special intentions:

Our Pope and Bishops
World Peace
Family Life
The Aged and Infirm
Immigrants and Refugees
The Environment
An Increase in the Virtues of Faith, Hope and Love
The Intentions of All Those Taking Part in the Novena

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

St. Romuald

Founder of the Camaldolese Order

This feast does not attain even the level of a memorial but you will find it in your parish misselette and certainly in your breviary. For most people Romuald would fall into the class of the rather obscure and arcane. But to those of us who aspire to contemplative monastic life, he is an iconic figure as founder of a cenobitic order of hermits living according to the Benedictine tradition. In his communities, members spent a large part of their day working and praying in the silence and solitude of individual hermitages and attached gardens. They came together for some communal recitation of the Liturgy of the Hours and some meals. His foundations pre-date St. Bruno and his establishment of the Carthusians. He did not leave an exhaustive rule but is known for his "Brief Rule" appearing below.

Sit in your cell as in paradise.
Put the whole world behind you and forge it.
Watch your thoughts like a good fisherman watching for fish.
The path you must follow is in the Psalms; never leave it.
If you have just come to the monastery, and in spite of your good will,
you cannot accomplish what you want,
then take every opportunity to sing the Psalms in your heart
and understand them in your mind.
And if your mind wanders as you read,
do not give up;
hurry back and apply your mind to the words once more.
Realize above all that you are in God's presence,
and stand there with an attitude of one who stand before the emperor.
Empty yourself completely and sit waiting,
content with the grace of God,
like a chick who tastes nothing and eats nothing
but what his mother gives him.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Mother of Perpetual Help Novena Begins Tomorrow

Contemplative Redemptoristine Nuns Honor the Patroness

of Their Monastery

It is the custom to give especially significant names to monasteries. Sometimes it may be just the name of the place and sometimes it is a name significant to the charism or history of the Order. I learned just yesterday that the name of our monastery, Mother of Perpetual Help, was probably suggested by the Redemptorists who had invited these contemplative nuns to come from Canada to a monastery they would provide on the grounds of their major seminary in Esopus, New York. While the Redemptorist Congregation was especially commissioned in 1866 by Pope Pius IX to make Our Mother of Perpetual Help known throughout the world, Redemptoristines too have long felt an affinity to Our Blessed Mother under this title. Certainly they had frequently sought her intercession as they considered starting a new foundation in the United States. Since the the entire process of discernment regarding the move, selection of the party of sisters who would enter new territory, the establishment of a new community in a large and fully equipped monastery, and all that has been experienced in the intervening years had been placed before the image of Perpetual Help over and over again, this year's Novena and Feast are especially significant. This is the fiftieth anniversary year of Mother of Perpetual Help Monastery.

Please join us in expressing loving gratitude for favors granted in the past and in placing ever more pressing needs before this image of Mary, our Mother.


Holy Mary, help all in distress, encourage the fainthearted, console
the sorrowful, be the advocate of all the clergy and religious,
strengthen family life, bring peace to our world,
intercede for all God's holy people;
let all feel your aid who implore your Perpetual Help.

Our Mother of Perpetual Help, pray for us.
That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

O Lord Jesus Christ, who has given us your Mother Mary,
whose miraculous image we venerate, to be our Mother,
ever ready to help us, grant we pray, that we who earnestly
implore her aid may deserve to enjoy perpetually the
fruit of your Redemption. You who live and reign,
for ever and ever. Amen

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Love Alone: The Anointing at Bethany

Today I rejoiced in one of my favorite episodes in scripture, the dramatic scene of Jesus' anointing in the house of Simon the Pharisee by an unnamed women. All of the synoptic retellings indicate that she is a woman of bad reputation. (Matthew 26:6-13; Mark 14:3-9; Luke 7:36-50). Testifying to the importance of this pericope is its fourth appearance in the Gospel of John (12:1-8). There however, the woman does not go unnamed. She is Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus. Many have mistakenly assumed that the sinful woman of the synoptic versions was Mary Magdalene but scripture scholars do not support this conflation of characters. However, the scholar C.H. Dodd, in his book "Historical Tradition", argued that there was one actual incident behind these Gospel versions and that the variations arose in the course of oral tradition.

It is a story rich in lessons on faith and love, on sinful righteousness, on the largess of the mercy of God. Perhaps I am so partial to it because I spent a great deal of time studying this narrative and comparing the synoptic versions for a graduate school research paper. That work may yet see the light of day on this blog. But today my heart went in another direction.

I was struck by the motif of lavishness, of opulence, of generosity that does not keep count but is rather poured out in prodigal fashion. So prodigal that it annoyed Simon. With or without full appreciation of the culture of the time, the actions of the woman do seem quite over done, over the top. And Luke does not hesitate to embellish the story with tears so copious they literally wash the feet of Jesus and hair so thick and luxuriant that it can be used to dry them. To justify the woman's actions and his own in allowing them, Jesus tells another story of prodigal generosity - the forgiveness of debts. In the end he over shadows the story by extending God's forgiveness to the woman who was presented as a great sinner.

These expressions of prodigal love and forgiveness enlarged my own understanding of the quality of utter openness and generosity God desires from me. It is thoughtless abandon to the acts of giving and availability. And in this pericope Jesus assures that God will not be outdone in generosity. The prodigality, the lavishness of his unmerited mercy cannot be measured. Perhaps the mystery here is that one opens the other. In this quality of giving we are opened up to receive and God rejoices in our new availability to absorb the ever flowing shower of love and mercy which by the very nature of God cannot be staunched.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Checking into the World and Checking Back Out Again Contemplative Nuns Visiting Their Families

During the last five days I have enjoyed what we call a 'home visit.' Most of our sisters come from places quite distant from our monastery. Those who wish to do so can travel once a year for such visits. Two of my sons live within a twenty minute drive from the monastery and I see them when their busy bachelor lives allow. That turns out to be not often enough for my taste but I guess that is a pretty standard complaint from mothers with grown children. They are just doing their thing. My oldest son, the one with two little boys, is about a two hour drive away. My mother and father, ages 83 and 86 respectively, are poised to celebrate their 64th wedding anniversary. They live about an hour away quite contented in their own home still doing everything for themselves. Another factor for those of us who enter religious life at an advanced age is that, if we've been lucky, we have a long history of deep friendships in our lives. And the older we get the older our friends become and sometimes they become less mobile.

My five days was packed with visiting important people in their home environments where we could enjoy each other's company at a leisurely pace and in relaxed style. It also enabled me to really see how they were getting along in their real worlds. A day and overnight with an old friend who is now housebound, two days with the precious grandchildren enjoying cooking and cookie baking and the imaginative play of my three and half year grandson Nicholas, then another day and overnight with my parents filled my five days to the brim. There was lots of driving in between but that was good too. How beautiful the hills of New Hampshire and what memories came flooding in as I crossed Connecticut east to west. There I began married life, began in the teaching profession, adopted a child, bought a home and made many friends way back in the late 60s and early 70s.

But was it ever good to get home! Being with family renews connections, solidifies bonds and brings me to profound gratitude. But now it is a world and a life I only check into on occasion. The center of my life, the center of the life of every contemplative nun is the place where she is most available to God. How grateful I am for this place and this life! Isn't it extraordinary!

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Visualizing the Heart of Contemplative Monastic Life

Philip Groning's Film

Into Great Silence

Feast for the Eyes


Balm for the Soul

An experience can be 'made' in the waiting or destroyed by inflated anticipation. In speaking of the film Into Great Silence, the period of long expectation, hearing the reactions of others and reading reviews did nothing to lessen enjoyment of the experience and the impact of its images. I am not qualified to comment on the technical achievements of the film nor do I wish to spoil the experience of seeing it by offering too many specifics concerning details and images that remain with me so powerfully. However, I do want to share my reaction and give my hearty recommendation.

Our community of contemplative nuns does not, in any way, live the austere style of hermit life within community for which the Carthusians are known. Theirs is a most ascetic life, which is lived within the monastic collective, but with each day spent almost exclusively within the confines of one's cell (a small 'apartment' of rooms with a garden) devoted to prayer, meditation, work, study and rest. The monastery of the Grande Chartreuse is a huge medieval appearing complex perched on a mountainside in eastern France. Because we interpret and live our rules of enclosure in a different manner, five of us were able to go to a local cinema to see the film on the big screen. This is not typical for us at all. We approached this film as a source of spiritual enrichment, as a mediation on the values that lie at the heart of the life embraced by Christian contemplative monks and nuns all over world and their counterparts in every major religious tradition.

That is exactly what the gifted and patient Philip Groning provided for those who see his film. It was an experience, I believe, very much enhanced by viewing it on a large screen which paid fitting homage to spectacular panoramas of mountains and sky. Sitting in the dark silence of the theater provided the ambiance of setting and tone conducive to entering into such a contemplative meditation. It is testimony to the magnetism of the film that its extreme length, a necessary feature communicating the call to perseverance for a lifetime, is quickly forgotten as one is completely drawn into the pace, the visuals and the portent of the documentary. And, oddly enough in our age of extreme bombardment by sound of every kind, the silence is soon appreciated as gift - less interference with the message.

The message at hand is the mystery that lies at the heart of such a life - total, utter, exclusive surrender to the presence of God. If this film were one's only source of solid information about the Carthusian way of life, the viewer would remain quite ignorant. The film does not indicate how many times a day they pray together or alone; how the house is run; how assignments are made; who can come and who can go; whether or not they attend Mass every day; how they elect their abbot. Although the film visually carries the viewer from one winter through the year to the next winter, it gives no account of the events of the Liturgical Year. The only rituals observed are the Communion part of a Mass and a procession with adoration of the Blessed Sacrament for the Feast of Corpus Christi. It may be that Groning saw these as merely externals which do not speak of the nature of the contemplative imperative within the individual. It was this matter of the heart, this mystery that his images communicated. In this he succeeds totally. Visualized in image, repetition, composition, occasional sound and brief interspersed quotes from scripture and spiritual works is the heart of the matter - utter devotion to a life of being present to God, simplicity in all things, and surrender to God's will in loving charity. How one 'does' this is not the point. The Carthusians do it this way. We Redemptoristines do it another way. The Carmelites and the Trappists in still other ways, each to their own charismatic insight, emphasizing solitude here, or silence there, or, for some, community life as the locus for individual transformation. But, in the heart, lie the same values, the same interior movement, the same desire for God, the same effort, although differently expressed, to become 'walled about by God.'

I found the movie to be a visual feast for the eyes; sometimes one Renaissance or Dutch master's rendering of a scene after the other; sometimes an elongated impressionist image moving and changing shape before the eyes; a newly washed tin plate leaning against a stone wall dripping rinse water one slow drop at a time or the play of raindrops on the surface of a pool of water creating a multitude of endless and unique rippled patterns.

Enough words! After all, there a few words in the film. I will close with one of the quotations periodically appearing across the screen in the film.

You shall seek me and because you seek me with all your heart, I will let myself be found.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Ruins of Whitby Abbey, Yorkshire, England

A Legend of Female Monasticism

Hild of Streonshalh

Hilda of Whitby

614-680 CE

A friend and scholar whom I greatly admire recently set me to the task of writing a biographical piece about a figure of renown in the history of the English church. If there was a Hall of Fame for Contemplative Nuns, Hild would be among the first elected to it. Quite little is known about the woman in question except for an entire chapter devoted to her by Venerable Bede (doctor of the Church and father of English history) in his Ecclesiastical History of England. Since I was totally ingnorant of the period had to do quite a bit of research to situate this woman in historical context. Here's the story in a nut shell. The Celtic church rooted in its experience of the Roman Empire's presence in Britain had fled to the northern regions, first pushed back by the local pagans and then by the Anglo-Saxon invasions. At the beginning of the 7th century, Rome sought to regain a foothold in in Britain through the missionary efforts of St. Augustine of Canterbury. Hild of Streonshalh, baptised as a child, related to various royal families and familiar with all the local intrigue of territorial wars, murders, and poisonings, decided to enter a French monastery in her middle age. On the eve of her departure she was called back by St. Aidan, then a bishop, to form her own monastic community. Seems that monasteries of both men and woman were common at the time so she became the Abbess of a double monastery and eventually began another community at Streonshalh. The location was not called Whitby until the invading Danes (aka Vikings) renamed it many years after Hild's death. Hild cultivated the vocations of young men and women and in so doing nurtured five future bishops in her monastery school and also developed the poetic talent of the herdsman Caedmon, the first known British poet.

As the Christian scene developed and rivals continued to maneuver around each other, it was decided that a Synod should be held to decided whether the Celtic or the Roman brand of Christianity would prevail. The location was Hild's monastery. At the least she participated in the debate and there is some probability that she presided over the meeting, so much was she respected and admire for her organizational skills, wisdom and faithfulness to the Gospel. In spite of the fact that Hild's loyalties lay in the Celtic tradition, the Roman brand won the day.

Double monasteries led by influential and powerful abbesses continued into the 8th century in England and France but were eventually surpressed by the Council of Nice late in the 8th century.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Couple of New Pictures

Jonathan with little Benjamin and 'Nonna Nun' getting her 'babyfix.'

Been a while since I mentioned my three sons and two grandsons. I look forward to seeing the babies (Nicholas just over three years and Benjamin five months old) next week during a 'home visit.' Such great blessings!

Saturday, June 02, 2007

It's Been a Beautiful Week at Our Monastery

In thinking of how I might begin this piece I was reminded of Garrison Keillor's opening line for his monologue on Prairie Home Companion: "It's been a beautiful week in Lake Woebegone." We began with the celebration of Fr. Tom Travers 50th jubilee of vows followed by Memorial Day with its memories of the fallen made all the more poignant by the current violence in Iraq and daily updates concerning the dead and wounded. That morning I chose to read the opening section of Chapter 44 of the Book of Sirach. I nearly lost it when I got to verse 9 - But of others there is no memory, for when they ceased, they ceased. And they are as though they had never lived... Thankfully the Chapter concludes with: Their bodies are peacefully laid away, but their name lives on and on. At gatherings their wisdom is retold, and the assembly proclaims their praise.

Wednesday offered the precious opportunity for my monthly personal retreat day. My mother asks why I have such days since I live in a monastery. Aren't I in retreat all the time? Contemplative nuns, in addition to a daily commitment to prayer and meditation, must also be about the regular chores that sustain all domestic life and the life of any social organization. Like everyone else, we have to pay constant attention to maintaining the balance in our lives, a balance made ever more critical by our religious vocation and our vows. I am sure that those who are married have had to pay similar attention to this balance in their lives too. So the monthly retreat day is an effort to assure the balance in the midst of work assignments, daily chores, and a myriad of assorted tasks. How did I spend my day? Since the hazy, hot and humid variety of weather had not yet arrived I enjoyed two periods of time out doors allowing only the sounds of nature to enter into my solitude. Sometimes my hands were busy with knitting and sometimes I just marveled at God's creation of springtime's burst of energy and all the little creatures that make our place their home. There was a great deal of time devoted to finally assembling the memory album for my solemn profession of vows which took place over one year ago. Digital photography is great tend to take lots more pictures which then have to be previewed and edited and then printed out if one wants something to show folks that doesn't require the latest in technology. Contemplating the moments immortalized in the photos and lingering with the words of the ritual particularly those in the vow formula itself and the words pronounced at reception for the signs of profession allow one the time to say again, "My heart is ready, O Lord, my heart is ready to sing psalm to my Lord Jesus Christ. Hear, O lord, my prayer and let my cry ever come to you. Take me, O lord, into your keeping and do not disappoint the hopes I have placed in you..I am the handmaid of Christ therefore I glory in bearing the emblems of his love." Another precious opportunity to answer the question in this time and in this place, "Why are you here?"

On Thursday we said the blessing for travelers and sent two of our sisters off; one to a long desired visit with family in Canada and the other, our prioress, to meet with superiors of other Redemptoristine communities in North America. Another sister embarked on her annual long retreat. She opted to say at home but her 'absence' from community events except mass will be noted. All will be missed.

Yesterday was the first Friday of the month. We had Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament from Office of Readings to Midday Prayer as part of our day of recollection; the whole day in a totally
silent monastery and no conversation at table. But here is where the issue of balance comes in. It was my turn to cook that day so that was my morning.

Today is my birthday. I rose to find a place set especially for me at table in the refectory complete with fresh cut peonies from our garden. Mass was said for my intentions and we had a delicious lunch including some of my favorite dishes. Today I began the process of publicizing our Mother of Perpetual Help Novena, June 19-27th. News releases went out to the papers inviting the public to join us especially for the triduum of the last three days when Father Dennis Billy, CSsR, professor at the Academy Alphonsianum in Rome, will be celebrant and homilist. Following the Mass on the 27th, the feast itself, we have refreshments outdoors for all of our guests. Many look forward to these occasions as opportunities to share devotion to our Blessed Mother under this special title and to enjoy the company of the community.

At the end of this week I hope to attend a showing of the German documentary film "Into Great Silence" at a local theater. I have been very curious about this largely silent film about life in the Carthusian monastery of the Grande Chartreuse in France. Carthusian's enjoy the reputation of being the most rigorous form of contemplative cenobitic life in which most of the monk's day is spent in his hermitage 'cell'. There are a couple of books on my reading list about this way of life. So stay tuned for a review of the film.